AP Chemistry Grading Scale: How is AP Chem Graded?

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Are you curious about the AP Chemistry grading scale and what to expect from the exam? Are you worried about not being prepared for the format of the exam? If you can answer yes to either of these questions, you are in the right place.

AP Chemistry is an extremely hard exam and knowing how to prepare could make the difference of scoring a 2 versus a 4. We will give you information not only on how the exam is scored but helpful tips for studying.  Keep reading to find this information and more.

How is the AP Chemistry Exam Structured?How is the AP Chemistry Exam Structured?

One thing that you should always prepare for is the structure of an exam. Though you may have the content down, you will be in bad shape if you can’t figure out how to overcome the test itself. The AP Chemistry exam has two distinct sections. These sections include multiple choice and free response.

Students are also allowed to use a calculator in both exam sections. Though formally, students were not able to use it in section one. Calculators will need to adhere to the Calculator policy set forth by the College Board. Students can check the approved calculator list to determine if their calculator is listed. Be sure to check the note in relation to the use of graphing calculators and prohibited functions.

In addition to the calculator, students will be given a periodic table and an AP chem formula sheet.

The multiple choice and free response areas will cover nine units. These units include the following:

  • Atomic Structures and Properties
  • Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties
  • Intermolecular Forces and Properties
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Kinetics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Equilibrium
  • Acids and Bases
  • Applications of Thermodynamics

Multiple-Choice Questions

The multiple-choice section includes sixty questions. These sixty questions can appear in two ways: within a question where you are also given sample data or discreetly. Students will have one hour and thirty minutes to complete this exam portion.

Free-Response Questions

The free-response section includes seven questions. These seven questions include four short answer questions and three longer questions. These questions focus on the 6-course skills covered by the AP Chemistry exam.

How is the AP Chemistry Exam Calculated?

How is the AP Chemistry Exam Calculated?

If you’re here to answer the question, “how is AP chem graded?” you have come to the right place. Each of the two sections is worth 50% each. The longer questions are worth more points, 10, whereas the shorter questions are worth four points each. Points for the long answer questions are awarded based on the parts of the exam you answered correctly.

The AP chemistry raw scores conversion happens in each section. Students would convert their score to a number on the multiple-choice exam; your number of correct questions out of 60 would then be converted to a 50-point scale. The same would then be done for the short answer portion, converting the number of points received out of 40 to a 50-point scale. These two scores would then be added to get your total score out of 100.   Use the corresponding table below to see how your score would convert.

Raw Score AP Score
72-100 5
58-71 4
42-57 3
27-41 2
0-26 1

AP chemistry grading scale begins at 1, the lowest, and 5, the highest. A computer grades the multiple-choice portion of the exam, whereas a group of AP teachers and college professors grades the short and long-answer questions.

What is a Good Score on the AP Chemistry Exam?

What is a Good Score on the AP Chemistry Exam?

Currently, no score on the scale is dictated as a fail. Generally, when a student receives a score under 2, they will not receive any college credit. The average score for the 2023 AP Calculus exam was 3.26, meaning that most students who take the exam will indeed get college credit for their exam performance.

The College Board has provided standard of recommendation based on its scoring, which can be found below:

AP Score Credit Recommendation College Grade Equivalent
5 Extremely well qualified A
4 Well Qualified A−, B+, B
3 Qualified B−, C+, C
2 Possibly Qualified n/a
1 No recommendation n/a

Why are AP Chemistry Scores Curved?

Why are AP Chemistry Scores Curved?

AP Chemistry is one of the hardest AP exams that a student will take. However, as of Fall 2022, the AP chemistry grading curve will not be enacted. From the College Board themselves, tell students, “AP Exams are not norm-referenced or graded on a curve.” Instead, the scores are criterion-referenced. This means that students who meet the criteria for a certain score will be given that score regardless of how many students receive it.

How to Study for the AP Chemistry: 5 Study Tips

How to Study for the AP Chemistry: 5 Study Tips

You can do several things to prepare for the AP Chemistry exam. Getting a jumpstart on them now will help you when you go to sit for the exam. Use the tips below to help you stay ahead of the exam and get the score.

Utilize Unit Outlines

Students and teachers can utilize the Unit guides provided by the College Board. The Unit Guides give students an overview of what they will need to study for a given unit. The structure of the guides allows students to get the information they need concisely. The unit open gives you a view of what to expect from the unit. This contains an overview of key content and helpful tips based on past exam takers. The unit outline is where the bread and butter is. It shows you the given top and the associated skill you will be tested on with respect to the exam.

Though this material is often meant for teachers, students may find it beneficial to help create their study schedule. The unit guides often include activities and resources that may further drive home the points and skills emphasized within the unit. At the end of the outline, you will find sample exam questions. This will help you understand what to expect on the exam. There will also be a section describing the action verbs used on the short and longer answer questions, as well as a description of how to solve them.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Calculator Functions

Knowing your calculator is essential to being able to utilize it efficiently on the exam. After you have validated that your calculator is on the approved list and doesn’t have any functions that would deem it ineligible for use, the learning can begin. You should know how to input formulas on our calculator to produce the answer needed. This includes using things like percents, exponential notation, and even LOGS.

Even though you use a calculator, you must show all your work. Since students are awarded points for the work they show, you will need to do more than write a number down to ensure you get full points. The College Board points out that you will still get credit for a later part of an exam question even if you do not know how to solve for the first section. Showing how you would have utilized the answer would still garner points on the question.

Make Sure You Know Your Symbols

Other key areas on the exam are symbols and notations. Though your calculations may be correct, labeling an item with the wrong unit may cause it to be wrong. It is important that you are able to differentiate between what different symbols mean and when to use each one. Though you will have an AP chem formula sheet, you will need to make sure you understand what is on the sheet. Use the list below to indicate things you should know before sitting for the AP Chemistry exam.

  • Periodic elements and their phases
  • Monatomic ions and their charges
  • Transition metals
  • Polyatomic ions, as well as their symbol
  • Prefixes
  • Using significant figures
  • Metric prefixes

Use Flashcards

Flashcards are an excellent resource for studying AP chemistry as there are a number of items you will need to know or remember. This is seen as one of the most helpful ways to study for the exam. They can be used for more than just vocabulary words but other areas that will need memorization. This can include ionic charges, significant figures, elements and more.

Study Outside of the Classroom

If you haven’t taken anything else from this entire article, it should be that studying outside of the classroom is essential to your success on the exam. Only covering materials while in class would put you at a huge detriment. Take time to create a realistic study plan that will work for you. Utilize the unit guides to help structure this time.

Although you should be studying outside of the classroom, using the resources provided to you by your teacher can also help you get ahead. If your teacher offers office hours or time for students to ask questions, bring the things you do not understand to them. This could make or break your understanding.

Wrapping Things Up: AP Chemistry Grading Scale: How is AP Chem Graded?

The AP Chemistry exam is structured in two sections: a multiple-choice section with 60 questions and a section of free-response questions. Students are given an AP chem formular sheet to reference while they are taking the exam. Each section is originally graded using the raw score and converted to two 50-point sections. This is then what is used to get to the single numerical score.

The grade students receive determines if they are eligible for college credit for a given course. This is more typically scores in the 3,4 or 5 range. AP Chemistry is considered one of the hardest AP exams a student can take. Therefore, studying hard and doing your best should be your highest priorities.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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